Continuing the forest theme

Sometimes a Great NotionSometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book blurb says it is a book about a strike and one logging family’s role in it and betrayals within that family. And to a point it is. But that is all background for the struggle of two half-brothers to come to terms with their relationship.

The narrative structure is intellectually satisfying but confusing to read at first. I suppose it would be classified as omniscient author; it allows getting into the head of any character at any time. There are no “meanwhile back at the ranch” overt statements, but the reader is never allowed to forget context. Kesey roams the actions of various characters in a paragraph or in several pages, inserts what one character is thinking into another’s narration about them, and sometimes intersperses past and present narratives. In the middle of such an overview, Kesey slips into first-person narrative for a spell. And the first-person sections were compelling.

The characterization is full bodied, even of minor characters. At first this was a problem: it felt like too much irrelevant detail, and for the first hundred or so pages I wasn’t yet committed to finishing. But once the longer first-person sections appeared, I was hooked.

The ending does not wrap it all up and may leave readers wishing for more answers. But the main plot, the relationship of the two half-brothers and the struggles of one woman were convincingly resolved.

I had recently finished reading American Canopy with its various histories, of logging, of empire, of the development of the Forest Service. That reading made some references to the Forest Service and its rules and reasons richer. Not necessary to enjoy the novel, but a nice accompaniment.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Continuing the forest theme

  1. dezertsuz

    You do seem to have a theme going here. You read interesting, different kinds of books.

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